A Cure For Diabetes: Medicine's Next Big Thing?

FRESNO, Calif.

For the first time, scientists believe they're on the cusp of a cure for this common disease, it could be medicine's next big thing.

What does a teenage heartthrob, a talk-show host, and a silver screen beauty have in common? Diabetes. Pricks, shots, and pumps are part of the daily routine for them and 23 million Americans.

That includes Earl Rutledge. His diabetes led to a foot ulcer and almost an amputation.

"When I started walking, I started dragging my foot, just to compensate for the pain and stuff," Rutledge told Ivanhoe.

Now, for the first time, researchers are using diabetes and "cure" in the same sentence.

Doctor Donald Jump at Oregon State University eliminated diet-induced diabetes -- or type two diabetes -- in lab mice. "We saw that certain enzymes were being repressed by the high-fat diet," Donald Jump, Ph.D., department of nutrition and exercise sciences, said.

The enzyme he's talking about is called fatty acid elongase-five. The more fat we eat, the less of the enzyme we produce. So, when researchers boosted the production of the enzyme in mice livers, they were cured of their diabetes in five days.

"The animals' hyperglycemia disappeared, and their fatty liver disappeared, and their insulin resistance disappeared. We were very dazzled by this outcome," Dr. Jump added.

This lab's focus now turns to what's called mechanism: why did this work?

Rutledge's out walking again thanks to standard therapy, but he still fights the diabetes battle daily. Now, science is one step closer to a cure for a disease that impacts nearly one in 10Americans.

This enzyme, which one day would be incorporated into a new drug strategy, also pushed blood sugar levels to normal values and reduced the triglyceride level in the liver. That means protecting patients from fibrosis, cirrhosis and other liver diseases.

Donald B. Jump, Ph.D.
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR

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